Decoroso Bonifanti was born in Moconesi, near Genoa, in 1860. He soon moved to Turin to enrol at the Accademia Albertina, where he followed the courses of Andrea Gastaldi and Pier Celestino Gilardi. Although he trained under a history painter and a genre painter, he specialised in landscapes, although at his debut in Turin in 1883 he presented two scenes from everyday life: Dementia and A corner of the stable. The following year, however, he exhibited his first two landscapes Sunset and Aurora, which made him known to the critics. As soon as he had finished his studies, however, Decoroso Bonifanti decided to leave for Argentina, where he settled for over twenty years.
The move to Argentina: el pintor de las tablitas
Decoroso Bonifanti’s first artistic endeavour was the creation of a large canvas for the Hotel de Inmigrantes in Buenos Aires. Afterwards, he carried out the activity of landscape painter for many years and at the same time, as secretary, he was in charge of the Italian Artistic Association but also of teaching in two painting schools, one of which was governmental. He was in great demand as a portrait painter by the Argentine bourgeoisie, but he never stopped sending his works to Italian exhibitions. In 1914, having already returned to Italy, he also took part in the Paris Salon, achieving considerable success.
As early as 1885 he sent Un po’ per uno to the Turin Exhibition, but for many years he abandoned anecdotal painting to devote himself to landscape en plein air. In Argentina he was known as “el pintor de las tablitas” because he mainly used small boards on which he produced evocative, airy landscapes with a bright, varied palette and consistent brushstrokes.
During his Argentine years, he painted the frescoes in the Convent of the Dominicas in Tacuman, with the Life, Miracles and Death of Saint Dominic, while for the cemetery of the convent he painted a Dead Christ in the lap of the Virgin Mother. In 1904 he returned to Turin, where he was immediately called upon to decorate the Politeama Chiarella Theatre. In 1906 he took part in the Promotrice di Belle Arti in Genoa with Sunset in the Argentine Pampas, a memoir of his years outside Italy. March, Prelude to the Day dates from 1907. Also worthy of mention are Male portrait and Morning – Portofino Sea presented in the 1930s at the Promotrici del Sindacato Fascista Torinese.
He painted until the end of his life, also devoting himself to the decoration of Widler’s Aspen Castle in Lembach, where he painted the large painting From the Cradle to the Tomb on the walls of one room. In his last years in Genoa he worked intensively in the field of theatre scenography, which he combined with his work as a landscape painter and decorator. He died in Chiavari in 1941.